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Bitcoin ETF Regulatory Withdrawal Sets Institution On-Ramp Back Once Again

VanEck and SolidX have withdrawn a proposal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the duo’s latest attempt at a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF).

The struggle to create the first bitcoin ETF has been ongoing since at least 2013. Theoretically, a formalized market for a bitcoin ETF would furnish a convenient, institution-friendly investment product for legacy financial players to make moves into bitcoin. There has been a great number of attempts by various asset management firms to get the SEC to approve a market for a bitcoin ETF, but the commission has shot down or delayed all attempts so far. 

Still Working Out the Kinks

On September 17, 2019, the SEC made a filing public, indicating that Cboe BZX Exchange had withdrawn its formal request to regulators for a rule change to list and trade the VanEck/SolidX bitcoin ETF market. The SEC was required to arrive at a decision on the matter by October 18, 2019, so this withdrawal resets the clock on the existence of a hard-and-fast ruling in an otherwise murky field. VanEck et al. will now have the chance to work out the kinks on their proposal without risking a rejection when the deadline comes to a head, which the group has already done before. 

With the sheer number of delays already associated with this project (and others) over the last several years, many commentators within the space are becoming increasingly exasperated by the endless revolving news of ETF filings, delays and rejections. However, there is news on the horizon that the issue may be permanently resolved soon.

On September 9, 2019, SEC Chair Jay Clayton went on CNBC to claim that “there’s work left to be done,” but that, in general, the space is closer to satisfying his concerns about the feasibility of a bitcoin ETF than ever before. “Progress is being made, but people needed to answer those hard questions for us to be comfortable that this is the appropriate type of product.” In the past, the SEC has cited concerns over market manipulation and custody when discussing why it has been leery to approve a bitcoin ETF.

A common argument for the importance of a bitcoin ETF is that it would allow more institutional players a chance to ease into the world of cryptocurrency investment. However, as the SEC continues delaying its decisions on bitcoin ETF filings, Wall Street players have looked toward other on-ramps onto bitcoin, with billions of dollars worth of assets already in the hands of institutional investors. Although a bitcoin ETF would make for another convenient on-ramp for this process, financial institutions have found other ways to break into the market.

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